Neophyte Tony Cingrani was able to do something Saturday night in the first inning that veteran Bronson Arroyo was unable to do Friday night in the first inning: Put a lid on it, limit possible damage, cap the leak.
And it helped the Cincinnati Reds to stick an 8-3 loss on the lapels of the St. Louis Cardinals in Great American Ball Park.
On Friday night the Cardinals scored four runs off Arroyo in the first inning and used it as a launching point for a 13-3 slaughter on Pete Rose Way.
On Saturday night three of the first four Cardinals reached base in the first inning but Cingrani was able to twist a one-run tourniquet around the Cardinals and the Reds pushed on to an 8-3 victory.
Cingrani walked Jon Jay to open the game and he quickly scored on Carlos Beltran’s double. It was time to bear down, Charlie Brown.
He struck out Allen Craig, walked Matt Holliday, struck out David Freese and retired Daniel Descalso on a fly to right.
“Oh, yeah, it could have gotten away quick, no doubt,” said Cingrani. “After that first run I tried to bear down and get those guys out. And limit the damage. I walked Holliday because I didn’t want to give him a good pitch to hit so I kind of pitched around him — an unintentional intentional walk.”
Manager Dusty Baker was impressed by Cingrani’s gustiness in that wobbly first.
“Those guys can run off from you in the first inning,” said Baker. “He bears down and throws strikes and near-strikes. Tony is a competitor, strong will, strong mind.”
Baker said he talked with veteran pitcher Mark Prior, whom the Reds recently released from Class AAA Louisville, and Prior talked positively about Cingrani over dinner.
“He told me Tony was one of the few players in Triple-A that wasn’t intimidated by anybody,” said Baker. “Young pitchers usually read the names and numbers on the backs of uniforms and are intimidated.”
Cingrani says he does read the names and numbers, but it only fuels him.
“It more amps me up than anything, somebody like Matt Holliday because he is trying to pull the ball and hit home runs and the same with Carlos Beltran,” said Cingrani. “It amps me up so that I actually try to throw harder.”
Despite five walks in five-plus innings, Cingrani held the Cardinals to three runs and four hits to push his record to 5-1. Johnny Who?
Offensively, the major fireworks were provided by the lower portion of the batting order. Catcher Devin Mesoraco hit two home runs, his first multi-home run game, and drove in three runs.
Jack Hannahan’s two-out, two-run single in the first off Jake Westbrook turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Mesoraco’s first home run, a two-run, two-out blast in the fourth, gave the Reds a 4-1 lead. A two-out walk to Joey Votto in the fifth was followed by a Brandon Phillips double to make it 5-1.
“The hit of the night was that two-out, two-strike, two-run hit by Hannahan in the first inning,” said Baker. “They thought they were out of the inning, two strikes, but he put us on the board.”
The Cardinals, though, crept within two by scoring two runs in the sixth and when the Reds filled the bases with no outs in the seventh and didn’t score, bad handwriting was on the dugout wall.
Mesoraco and Shin-Soo Choo erased it.
Mesoraco led the eighth with his second home run of the game and Todd Frazier walked. Choo then blasted his 15th home run — his first this season with a man on base — and the Reds led, 8-3.
Since Ryan Hanigan lapsed again onto the disabled list and Mesoraco began playing nearly every day he is hitting .333 (18-54) with four home runs, four doubles and 12 RBI.
“My swing feels good and I feel good where I am because of the additional reps, more playing time, that always helps,” said Mesoraco. “When you know you are going to play every day you’re not pressing, trying to get a hit, because you know the next day you are not going to be in the lineup.
“When you are playing well, that breeds confidence and I feel confident at the plate and I’m confident in my swing,” he added.
Of Cingrani, especially in the first inning, Mesoraco said, “He always has that fastball in his back pocket where he can go it when he really needs to make a pitch. That’s pretty much all it is.
“Usually, when guys get on base pitchers throw more off-speed stuff. It is complete opposite with Tony. He tries to throw it even harder and throw it even more by guys. He is so fun to watch because he is such a competitor with a great mentality on the mound.”